Weight-loss programs at work can help people shave pounds and keep them off, researchers said in a new report.
Among the people who signed up for a six-month program at two Boston-area workplaces, the average weight loss was more than 17 pounds; among the control group, people gained an average of about 2 pounds, the researchers said in the April issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
"Worksites have the potential to become a central element in national efforts to reduce obesity because the majority of adults work and worksites offer naturally occurring social groups that, in theory, could facilitate weight control, the researchers from Tufts University and Massachusetts General Hospital wrote.
In addition to losing weight, the participants had improvements in such measures as blood pressure and cholesterol levels. No significant weight gain occurred among those who followed the initial program with a structured workplace weight-maintenance program, the researchers said.
And those who did not enroll in the weight-loss program lost a little weight too -- an average of almost four pounds.
The researchers looked at four workplaces -- two participating in the program and two on a waiting list to do so -- for a year from October 2010. The program was free and included group programs for overweight and obese people and a health education program for everyone.
The goal was weight loss of about a pound to 2 pounds a week. The program used portion-control menus, group meetings and support emails.
The researchers noted that most work-based weight-loss programs have had modest results. Many have included changes in cafeteria and vending machine foods and/or efforts to encourage increased activity.
The researchers said it's not known why those programs were not more effective, but suggested it might be the greater focus on the workplace environment rather than on individual behavior changes.
It's also possible, they said, that the particular workplaces in their study had "substantial worker enthusiasm for weight loss."